We began our journey today at the Judean desert. This was the desert where Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness being tempted by Satan, immediately after his baptism by John in the Jordan River. In this desert, Jesus was tempted by Pride, Power, and Prestige.
It seemed fitting, as Lenten pilgrims, for us to spend some time at this desert, as well. After a meditation on deserts, we has some quite time for reflection. It was one of those moments for me when I was quite literally smacked with the wonder of what I was seeing. This was THE desert.
Perhaps because the desert is such a vast place, and we know he was in there, which square metres he walked on, matter much less.
I was moved by the desert. It is not a friendly place. In Scripture, when people go into the desert, we know that they will encounter God. I can see why.
The photo on the left shows the desert. One of my fellow pilgrims was praying, and I thought she really showed how VAST this space is. On the right, is a child of one of the many many vendors at this particular car park. I could have ridden the donkey for sheckels, or dollars.
We left the desert for Jericho. This is the New city of Jericho, not the ancient biblical one (though we saw the remains of that one, too). We took cable cars above the city to the Monastery of the Temptation, built upon the site where Jesus was shown all the cities of the world and told that the could all be his if he would just worship Satan. The monastery was filled with gorgeous iconography. And while you could not see all the cities of the world from there, you could see a very long way. I knelt and touched a stone, lit candles for those I love, for St. Barnabas, and for the Diocese of NH, and I crawled into a cave where a monk would have lived.
The picture on the left shows the view from the Cable Car as we climbed (and those who know me well can be impressed, I did not have to cling to Anne for dear life!). The middle photo is the view from the monastery. The picture on the right is a tiny fraction of the icons in the monastery.
From Jericho, we headed off towards the Sea of Galilee. On the way, we traveled along the TransJordan, and learned more about Israeli-Palestinian politics. Based on an agreement (I think from 1968), there are essentially three Palestinian zones in Israel:
· Zone A is under total Palestinian control (like Bethlehem and Jericho). Also, Zone A is walled off from the rest of Israel, and one must pass through a checkpoint to re-enter Israel. Those without proper documentation may not enter. We’ve passed through several now, and given the rising tensions in the area, a member of the Israeli Army comes aboard the bus and looks at all our passports.
· Zone B has a mix of control, some Israeli and some Palestinian. Bethany (as in Mary, Martha, and Lazarus) is such a city. I’ve not been to any Zone B cities yet, so I have no feel for what this looks or feels like.
· Zone C is the TransJordan. It’s under total Israeli control, despite being in a Palestinian territory, and is walled off. All of the fertile land along the Jordan (hence TransJordan) cannot be accessed by the Palestinians.
We are spending two nights alongside the Sea of Galilee, in a lovely guest house called Pilgerhaus, run by German Benedictines. The rooms are lovely, and we are literally on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. In my free time this afternoon, I wandered around the shore, touched the water, took lots of phots, and picked up rocks and shells.
Many of us chose to attend the monks’ service of Vespers at the nearby Church of the Multiplication, thought to be on the spot where Jesus multiplied the 5 loaves and two fish to feed the 5000. There, the mosaic right in front of the altar depicts two fish and four loaves; the fifth loaf is represented in the Eucharistic bread. I now own a chalice and paten with this mosaic represented on them.
Today, our schedule was labeled “Day of Prayer” and it certainly was that.